It has been TIPPING with rain in Fiji for 2 days straight now so I’m getting time to catch up on photos and the like. In my first update of this trip I left you on my way from New York to Canada…
NEW YORK, the USA to TORONTO, Canada – Tuesday 8th November 2011
At the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York I had a little wait before getting on the bus to Newark, which was surprisingly quick! I was not a fan of Newark airport, there is no space around the check in area (apparently they’ve just improved it!) so everyone queuing for flights were in the way of people trying to get through to their check in desk, not easy with loads of bags, as most people going on a flight will have! I checked in and got through security ok and then had about an hour to wait before my flight; it was soooooooooooooo hot in the departure lounge, everyone was fanning themselves and removing layers of clothing. Porter Airlines who fly to Toronto’s City Airport (aka Billy Bishop Airport) were fantastic, the view over Manhattan as I left was great (saw a very small Statue of Liberty) although it was a bit hazy, the food was amazing (ham roll and delicious pasta) and it was all very posh, almost like flying first class. It was only a small plane, two seats each side (like the Guernsey planes Mum, Dad and Maff…). The view over the USA and then Canada was really nice, very green and loads of wind turbines. Lake Ontario looks like the sea (beautiful during the sunset), I would have thought it was the sea had I not known better and then the best was seeing this huge waterfall, with big puffs of spray coming out…I got ridiculously excited as I realised it was Niagara! It looked AWESOME from the air although you could see a very distinct difference between the very impressive Canadian falls and the American falls, which whilst pretty impressive on their own are nothing in comparison.
Anyway, we landed at Toronto and were quickly off the plane and at immigration at which I had the most questions I have EVER had in my ENTIRE life at an immigration point. I got my bags and ready to go through to see my Canadian family…who were waiting the other side with a lovely homemade sign saying ‘Welcome Rachel’ (as I’m writing this I’ve just realised I left it there, I wanted to bring it with me, feel awful, must get in touch with Elaine to see if she still has it). My Dad’s Aunt (my Grampy Godwin’s sister) Eileen and her daughter Elaine and son Ian (my Dad’s cousins) were there waiting for me. I couldn’t have missed them, they looked like Godwin’s and Auntie Eileen hadn’t changed at all since I last saw her in England about 10 years ago. We had a hug and got out of the airport (which included a ferry ride off of the airport island which was quite exciting and gave me an amazing view of Downtown Toronto at night) and into the car. As we were driving out of Toronto I got a good look at the CN Tower, which along with the rest of Downtown is beautifully lit up in pinks, purples and other colours. We headed out of the city towards Burlington (there was a lot of traffic, I’m so grateful to them for coming to get me) and stopped off for a really nice dinner in a pub; Ian and I had Bangers and Mash and it was delicious, a huge plate full but I ate it all (Gem, you would have loved them!). We had a nice catch up, talked about family and nice things then dropped Ian off before heading to Elaine’s beautiful home in Grimsby. Auntie Eileen stayed over and we had some wine and a chat before heading to bed. I learned a load of interesting things about life in Canada in the snow! If there’s 8 inches of snow they shovel their way out and carry on with everything, it’s only when there’s 12-15 inches that they’re snowed in completely. How much does it take to snow us in in England….?!!! About 3inches?!!! There were also piles of leaves along the streets in Burlington…in much from the car as wanted to see it all properly but did see a lot of wet people as the spray came over the road!
We parked up and crossed the street (in Canada and some of the USA not only do they have pedestrian crossings that show a countdown to zero before it goes to green for you, there is also a voice counting you down – 10, 5, 3, go!) and headed for my first proper glimpse of the falls. The river upstream looks relatively calm and like you could have a nice paddle in it then as you approach the Canadian horseshow falls it gets faster, but still only going crazy when it’s about to go over the edge (like it suddenly realizes what it’s in for it!). OMG, those falls are IMMENSE! I just can’t put it into words; I took some video so I can remember. There is so much water! The horseshow is so big it didn’t fit into one shot on my camera (which has a pretty wide lens). We stayed there for a good hour just moving along and watching it from different perspectives. We headed down towards the American falls (called so because they’re on the American side of the river); I don’t want to know them because they really are impressive on their own but just not when you compare it to the Canadian falls. To try to compare Niagara to Iguazu Falls on the Brazil Argentina border (Caryl and I went there last year); the American falls are like one of the many many falls of the type Iguazu has; the Canadian horseshow falls seemed much bigger in width than the Devil’s Throat (the horseshoe fall at Iguazu) but the volume of water didn’t seem so great – they’re both equally impressive in their own ways. We stopped for a bit of lunch (where Auntie Eileen and Elaine introduced me to Tim Horton’s, a very nice Canadian fast food type chain, where we had lovely bagels) then headed up a little cliff railway to Niagara town (full of hotels) to take a look at the casino, which was really big. On the way I saw my first black squirrel, didn’t even know you could get a black squirrel! We tried some 25cents machines but unfortunately lost our money :) We then headed back to the car (the guy working the lift recognised I was British from my poppy, apparently they’re distinctive because of the green leaf, the Canadians mostly all wear poppy’s for Remembrance Day) and drove out of Niagara…I will be back there! We drove back through the beautiful scenery, saw the big hydroelectricity power stations, and stopped off at the Butterfly Conservatory. Unfortunately it was closed, I didn’t mind though as got to take more pictures of nice trees then headed home for a rest and look at some old family photos I’d brought over from the UK for Auntie Eileen and family, I loved listening to their stories about my Great Aunts, my Grampy and Great Grandparents (and my Dad who apparently rang rings around his Granny with my Uncle Tom…!). We then went out for dinner at a nice pub in Grimsby – delicious pasta this time then bed – I was tired out!
Burlington and Hamilton – Thursday 10th November 2011
We were up early again, had a lovely breakfast, watched some TV then Auntie Eileen took me out for the day – I loved it – it was so nice spending time with her, reminded me of my Grampy Godwin. We stopped at the beach on Lake Ontario (which really is like the sea, you can’t see the other side all the way around, everyone you go the lake is there!) which gave a hazy view of Toronto on a faraway shore, We stopped off a Ian’s, had a drive around Burlington which is a really nice city, I thought it was very quaint, no high rises and then into Hamilton, the city where Auntie Eileen lives. We drove through beautiful scenery during the day, Canada really is impressive, over old bridges that were only just built when Auntie Eileen emigrated to Canada (one that lifted to allow the ships through) and went to a mall in Burlington which was HUGE and had so many nice shops (even had a Victoria’s Secret). In Hamilton we stopped at the harbour which was shut up for the winner but so moody and pretty and then up the Niagara Escarpment (as you go up you can see the different layers of rock in the ‘mountain’ side) for views over Hamilton. I liked going up and down the Escarpment roads so Auntie Eileen drove us up and down a couple of times because it was fun!
We went back to Auntie Eileen’s for a rest and a change, we looked through some more old photos and Auntie Eileen mixed me a Bacardi and coke, again just so lovely spending the time with her. We then headed back to Burlington to a delicious all you can eat (mainly Chinese) restaurant called Mandarin to meet Elaine and the rest of the family – Ian’s wife Carolee (not sure if I’ve spelt that right so apologies) and his daughter Laura and her boyfriend Blaine (again, apologies for the spelling). They were all so lovely and I felt very at home with them – everyone said how much Laura and I looked alike (and I can see what they mean!); we’re from the same generation with the same Great Grandparents. The food was awesome, I ate a load of Yorkshire Puddings which I was really crazing! I was sad to say bye to Ian, Carolee, Laura and Blaine; it was short but sweet. Please please come over to the UK soon so we can repay your fantastic hospitality! Elaine and I then headed home and sorted some photos so the Canadians had copies then headed for bed.
GRIMSBY, Canada to LARCHMONT, the USA – Friday 11th November 2011
I was leaving Canada today! So so sad, was not long enough! I got my stuff together and Elaine and I met Auntie Eileen back at the mall for the drive to the airport. I felt sad on the journey as wanted to spend more time with them all, we observed the minutes silence at 11am for Remembrance Sunday and they parked up and took me into the airport. The set up was a bit strange, I hadn’t realised but at some Canadian airports you pre-clear USA immigration and customs before even leaving Canada. So when I checked in I had to keep my bags with me and go straight through the various stages before the departure lounge (USA immigration, USA customs, airport security…I’m not even sure I went out of Canadian immigration) and the check in girl made it sound like there would be a big queue so I should go through quick so I didn’t miss my flight (which was leaving in 1 ½ hours!). It was disappointing as we’d hoped to have another Tim Horton’s before I left but I had to say bye there and go straight on through. I was really sad, am so so pleased I went to Canada to see them and will cherish the memories forever. Thank you so so much all of you for having me, I will definitely be back to see you all soon …Mum & Dad it would be amazing if you came with me…
Typically, the queues were not very big. USA immigration asked a few questions then I tried to find a Tim Horton’s in the departure lounge but it was tantalizingly on the other side of a glass screen – I couldn’t find a way through, think it was because I was flying to the USA so was on their side!
Next stop back to New York to visit the lovely Kristen Ragazzo in her hometown!
Lots of love, miss you all Xx
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